Modern Warfare 2 Review | Initial Thoughts From The Beta

The Call of Duty title for 2022 is Modern Warfare 2, led by Infinity Ward. Here's our review of the game, and whether we think it's worth buying for the average CoD-fan.

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This is the only Modern Warfare 2 review you need. | © Activision

Warzone players will be tempted to buy Modern Warfare 2 regardless of how good it is because they want access to easier weapon-levelling. But for those who are just interested in the core MW2 experience, from Campaign to Multiplayer and Spec-Ops, is it worth buying? It's a full price game ($70 on current-gen consoles) so you’ll want to be sure.

In this review we'll discuss our opinion on Modern Warfare 2 stage-by-stage, starting with our initial thoughts playing the beta. If you're completely unfamiliar with what's included in the game, you might want to check out this guide to MW2 first, so that you can read the review with some context.

Review of Modern Warfare 2 | Thoughts from the Beta

MW2 Gameplay

Tactical vs. Arcade

Call of Duty games exist on a spectrum, with one end being the more fast-paced/arcade-style, and the other end being the mil-sim/tactical-style. With Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward have tried to push the game as far towards the "tactical" end of the spectrum as possible. This is still Call of Duty, not Rainbow Six, but there are many elements in the game designed to make players slow down.

I like this style of Call of Duty, but a great many fans don't, and I think Infinity Ward have pushed this Call of Duty a bit too far away from what fans of arcadey shooters want. The classic minimap is a good case in point. On the one hand, it would make the game faster and less "tactical", which is against their design-philosophy. But on the other hand, an overwhelming majority of fans want it, so should they really still be saying no? They could at least find a better middle-ground to satisfy more of the community (maybe classic minimap for Domination and Team Deathmatch?). Because as it stands, no matter what you read in this review, a lot of your opinion about MW2 will be decided by your thoughts on Call of Duty going in a tactical direction.

Movement

The movement in Modern Warfare 2 is quite different to the previous three games. There's no slide-cancelling, quite long sprint-out times, and a few new mechanics like Dolphin Diving and Ledge-Hanging. While the new mechanics offer a bit more variation, they can’t be used offensively. And without anything to replace slide-cancelling we’re left with a comparatively slow-paced game compared to the last three CoDs. If anything it will probably remind older fans of the original boots-on-the-ground Call of Duty games.

Gunplay

The TTK is short, but the increased recoil in this game makes mid-ranged fights last longer than they would in MW2019 or Vanguard. It's hard to tell in the beta whether it's simply because we don't have the best recoil mitigation attachments, but the recoil is definitely more significant than we expected.

In terms of playstyle balance, it’s not perfect. The slower pace of this game and the low TTK make it very difficult for an SMG to chall an AR that’s posted up. In fact, from what we’ve seen in the beta so far, holding pre-aims with an AR seems to be the meta. All in all, we’re left with a CoD that punishes aggressive play more than any in recent history. Some will prefer this style of CoD, but others won't, so your personal preference comes into play here.

MW2 Maps

As you can see from the gallery below, one of the things MW2's predecessor (MW2019) did so poorly was the maps. They were awful. And we're pleased to announced that Modern Warfare 2's maps, although not "instant-classics", are all very decent, playable maps.

In the beta we saw a map called Hotel which will clearly work well for competitive play, as well as a much larger map called Museum that could be fantastic for 10v10. And for those that love chaos, we also got to try a couple of slightly smaller maps that we thoroughly enjoyed, one set in a Mexican market, and the other in a Shoothouse-style training facility. And before you ask, these maps are quite colorful and well-designed. Phew.


MW2 Weapons, Perks, Field Upgrades & Equipment

You can check out all the MW2 weapons here, but so far we're impressed. Nothing seems excessively broken, and they've reigned in the attachments to a maximum of 5. Many players will probably be annoyed at first by the new Gunsmith, but after you've figured it out after a few hours we think most will come to appreciate the changes. Gunsmith 2.0 is a sleeker, more realistic, and less grindy way to build an arsenal of good weapons.

The changes to the perk system aren't as confusing as people think, (you can read a guide to the MW2 perks here) but the changes don't feel necessary. It's not terrible, but it's hard to work out why they made this change besides innovation for innovation’s sake. The only advantage of the new system is that you have a meta which changes throughout the course of a match, which could be an interesting development.

When it comes to Field Upgrades they've given us tons of new stuff to play with. From deployable soldiers, which are just a gimmick and won't see much use, to deployable CCTV cameras, which can be absolutely clutch. But the equipment is largely the same set of Lethals and Tacticals that we got in MW2019. We're fairly happy with all the grenades and gadgets, nothing seems too broken, and we're pleased to say these Lethals won't leave us with a clusterf*** of fire damage all over the map, like Vanguard.

MW2 Graphics & Sound

The look and feel of this game is outstanding, as we expect from Infinity Ward, especially in how they convey the weight of the weapons and the explosions to the player. It feels "heavy", and in a good way. We're also very happy to see the maps are well-lit and more colorful than you might expect from an IW CoD. And while we're heaping on the praise, we should also mention the animations, which are downright sexy. But if we could improve one thing, the footsteps are still slightly too loud.


How Will MW2 Play In A Ranked/CDL Environment?

The Ranked mode isn't coming until Season 1, but with the CDL starting earlier this year, it's good to get a sense of how MW2 will play with competitive settings. Now, thanks to the improved maps of MW2 alone, we can say that this will be a better year for competitive CoD than MW2019 or Vanguard. And better yet, we might even be looking at a 3-gun meta if this game's flex weapon isn't GA'd. But there are also a couple of major issues I can see for comp, and I want to discuss them briefly.

Firstly, this game is so balanced towards ARs that even players like aBeZy will have a hard time going positive. This could lead to a lot of SnD games feeling like a stalemate, with both teams playing for picks. But even more worryingly, it will produce a very rotational-heavy Hardpoint meta, with few opportunities for breaking. That's just not as enjoyable to watch, in my opinion.

Secondly, although these maps are better than what we expected from Infinity Ward, the objectives have been horrendously placed. One of these maps has a whopping 15+ hills in Hardpoint! And another map has an SnD site that's so exposed, I don't imagine we'll ever see teams hit it unless they're wrapping back round after an engagement at the easier site.

Now we haven't seen all the maps, and we're sure they can make some adjustments for the competitive playlist / CDL. Plus, all the whacky new gadgets and aim-assist snipers will be GA'd, so those problems will sort themselves out. But we still need IW to make some serious changes to make this a good year for comp.

Modern Warfare 2: Initial Verdict

This is only the beta, and so we're sure our opinion will change, but we're happy: everyone who loved MW2019 will love this game, and even those who prefer Treyarch-style games will probably prefer this a lot to MW2019. Yes, they're appealing to casuals in some aspects of the game, but this is Call of Duty and not Counter Strike. And in other ways they're increasing the skill gap beyond what we expected for an IW game. They've clearly listened to the community when it comes to map design, which is good, but before launch they need to keep listening to the community and give us the classic minimap back (if you don't like it use a suppressor).

If they don’t even make a statement regarding the minimap then we’ll know they don’t really want to take the opinion of the community into consideration. That is the single most requested feature by far, and I’m saying this as someone who doesn’t feel strongly about it. If they don’t even address this issue then we’ll know they think they can decide what’s best for us, or some blithering “engagement algorithm” can.

Update After Beta Weekend 2

They did actually respond to criticism regarding the minimap, the perk system and Dead Silence, but they're only willing to change the perk system. Infinity Ward have insisted that the minimap will stay the same, and that Dead Silence will remain a Field Upgrade. But they did increase the rate at which perks are earned. It felt better after they made the change, but we only had about 24 hours to play around with the new system, so we'll need to wait for release to get a proper idea of whether it was an improvement.

We also noticed in Weekend 2 that they had slightly improved sprint-out-times, and that many SMG players had taken to b-hopping. Perhaps with these two factors coming into play, the balance between SMGs and ARs will shift slightly back towards the center again, but we still expect this to be a very AR-dominant game.